Let’s begin: Leverage Points 2019 Conference

The Leverage Points 2019 conference is about to start today (Tuesday 5. Feb. from 19:00-21:00) with an ice-breaker event! You are of course cordially invited! It will take place in the Forum space of the new central building at Leuphana University, where we will provide food drinks (non-alcoholic) and entertainment in the form of the band Brass Riot. This is an opportunity, to relax, meet old friends and make new ones.

We are all very excited about the upcoming events, and we will keep you all posted here on the blog and on twitter. You can follow us on @LevPointsfSus and using the #leverage2019.

Our blog will be filled with great reflections on upcoming sessions and the general themes of the day. We are proud to have an excellent team of bloggers on board:

Zuzana Harmackova is a postdoctoral researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Her research focuses on a comparative analysis of resilience indicators across case studies, future participatory scenarios and social-ecological aspects of ecosystem services provision. She has been involved in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), currently working on an assessment of values in future scenarios within the IPBES Assessment on Diverse Conceptualization of Values.

Josie Chambers is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. She is broadly interested in the implications of different approaches to environmental governance, and recently investigated the role of diverse collaborative approaches as a postdoctoral researcher with the Luc Hoffmann Institute. She holds a PhD in Geography and MPhil in Conservation Leadership from the University of Cambridge, an MSc in Integrated Resource Management from the University of Edinburgh and a BSc in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois.

Vicky Temperton is a Professor of ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services here at Leuphana university. Some of the core questions, Vicky is tackling, are 1) How can we counter current biodiversity loss, whilst also al­lo­wing for food security and adequate livelihoods and social interactions? And 2) What role can the restoration of biodiversity play in counteracting biodiversity loss, whilst helping to mitigate climate change and providing new forms of social and economic livelihood?

Well, and me (Maraja Riechers), I am one of the many PostDocs in the leverage points project here at the Leuphana University. My research focusses on human-nature connectedness, relational values, human-wildlife conflicts and landscape change – all with a leverage points perspective. Check out our new paper in people and nature: A leverage points perspective on sustainability.

Post your comments and thoughts on twitter and subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates on the conference!

See you soon!

 

Taking a fresh look at sustainability via a “leverage points perspective”

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer & Maraja Riechers

Have you ever wondered why, with all the science, and all the talk of sustainability, the world still seems to be going the wrong way? – One explanation is that we’ve done plenty of things, but … perhaps not the right things. A leverage points perspective is emerging as a new analytical lens to tackle sustainability problems. We summarize what this perspective can do for sustainability in our new paper in People & Nature; and from 6-8 February a leverage points perspective will take centre stage at the inaugural international conference “Leverage Points 2019” at Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany.

lppeopleandnature A leverage points perspective on sustainability.

The idea of leverage points as such is not new to people working on complex systems, such as social-ecological systems. However, the idea of a “leverage points perspective” is more than just recognizing that we…

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Food Democracy Now! The Second Networking Congress of German Food Policy Councils

By Annelie Sieveking

This blog post reports back from the second networking congress of German food policy councils, which was held this year, between 23rd and 25th of November, in Frankfurt, Hesse. This event brought together food policy council (FPC) initiatives from all Germany and its neighbor countries Austria, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Switzerland. The FPC initiatives from the German-speaking countries and regions met for the first time in 2017 (for more details see my blog on “The beginning of a new food movement in Essen” from November 2017). In the meantime, more FPCs were established, e.g. in the cities of Munich or Freiburg, and the number continues to rise. Currently we can talk about around 40 different FPC initiatives that are emerging in German-speaking countries and regions.

About 150 participants joined this event in Frankfurt with the aim of (1) exchanging experiences that they gathered in the early stages of formation of FPCs, and (2) learning from more experienced experts, while (3) strengthening their networking activities. Having accompanied the emergence of one of the first German FPCs in the city of Oldenburg, Lower Saxony as part of my PhD work in the Leverage Points project for 2,5 years now, it was interesting to see the ongoing dynamic as regards new initiatives, but also to hear participants raising concerns about internal challenges and the initiatives´ real-word impact on policymaking.

As a pre-event to the congress, the organizers invited everyone to the Museum für Kochkunst und Tafelkultur (Museum for Culinary Art and Dining Culture), where the attendees were offered locally produced food and drinks such as Ebbelwoi und Handkäs (apple wine and a specific cheese). This evening wasn´t only about getting a sense of local food culture, but also about discussing food production and consumption patterns with Nik Hampel, a farmer from the region.

The congress, taking place at Frankfurt´s Dominican Monastery, officially started on Saturday morning, with two rousing welcoming speeches by two policymakers. First, Priska Hinz, the state of Hessen’s Minster of Environment, Climate Protection, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, summarized the activities at state level related to transforming the current food system, such as strong promotion of organic farming (which currently represents 14,5 percent of all agricultural land in Hesse) or long-term funding for the Vernetzungsstelle Schulverpflegung, a network on school catering. The second speech was by Rosemarie Heilig, head of the Department for Environment and Women in Frankfurt, who stressed the importance of cities to be involved in the formation of FPCs. As patroness of the FPC Frankfurt, she is very in favour of the initiative´s goals and tries to support them as much as she can, e.g. in the current budget negotiations at city level. Both policymakers referred to an emerging trend that motivates them to take action: More and more citizens seem to be concerned about food and would like to know how their food is produced and where it comes from.

In a keynote speech, Olivier de Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014) and Co-Chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) also welcomed the congress´ participants. He expressed his fascination for seeing the FPC movement now reaching the European continent. From his point of view, there are three presumed dichotomies/challenges that seem to be relevant for FPCs: The one between invented and invited spaces, the one between representative and participatory democracy, and the one between non-profit logic and economic logic. De Schutter recommended the initiatives to “make an exercise in political imagination”: Building on the combined knowledge of the different actors involved in FPCs, this exercise might lead to new forms that benefit from the coexistence of the three dichotomies. The moderators of the congress tried to relate de Schutter´s input to the initiatives present at the congress. Referring to the dichotomy between invented and invited spaces, they asked for a show of hands indicating who initiated the council´s formation: The majority indicated being initiated by civil society instead of being invited by policymakers.

This grassroots spirit became even more apparent when individuals from 38 FPC initiatives briefly summarized their current work and their local experiences in a two-hour storytelling session. This presentation confirmed my overall observation that – since the first congress in Essen last year – on the one hand many initiatives intensified their activities and several new initiatives started their work. On the other hand, some initiatives are facing struggles with regard to the acquisition of funding or internal structures. As one member of the initiative in Gießen put it: “We are now trying a second start”.  Also in my case study on the FPC in Oldenburg, the structures created roughly a year ago when they established the council are currently under reconsideration and just a week ago, the council representatives agreed on some changes to facilitate the workflow within the council. For these initiatives, the Beratungsmodul (consulting module), provided by the Institut für Welternährung (World Nutrition Institute), might be a supporting tool. Based on the initiatives´ individual needs, the project team offers workshops in the next months to come, e.g. on internal communication or recruitment of new members.

Open space discussion on Saturday.jpg

Open space discussion on Saturday. copyright: Ernährungsrat Frankfurt

 

As the FPC movement in Germany is still comparably young, learning from international experts remains an important source of knowledge and guidance for the initiatives. Lori Stahlbrand from FPC Toronto, Canada, illustrated how FPCs can have an impact at city level and, reversely, what food can do for cities. In Toronto, they don´t only run a number of community projects but also launched a comprehensive food strategy. Despite all success, Lori also gave a warning to the newcomers on the European continent: It might be difficult to change existing structures and not all favoured policies might be implemented in the end. She stressed the importance of pursuing different strategies at the same time: Striving for changing structures and promoting pilot projects. Kenneth Heigaard from Copenhagen House of Food in Denmark presented one impressive flagship project on promoting organic food in public canteens.

How to shape public catering, especially in schools and kindergartens was also one of the manifold topics that were discussed during the open-space sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Participants from about ten FPC initiatives discussed their local approaches, for example the Bio-Regio-Woche, recently launched by the FPC Berlin, where local caterers served about 250.000 meals based on organic food from the region at schools in the city of Berlin. Having the inspiring experiences from Denmark in mind, the participants of the open-space session wondered if they should also pursue a more radical approach instead of slowly adapting existing school food requirements, which can be frustrating as some participants reported. Among them, there was consensus that it is not only necessary to change the canteen food as such. They consider education and raising awareness as key elements to initiating a transformation. Here, FPCs could potentially help bringing different stakeholders together. Also in my case study in Oldenburg, improving school food came up as an issue during the emergence of the council. Currently, they participate in the development of a new concept for school catering the city of Oldenburg.

Closing plenary on Sunday.jpg

Final plenary on Sunday. copyright: Ernährungsrat Frankfurt

 

After having discussed many more topics in the open-space sessions, the congress participants gathered for a last plenary to adopt the Frankfurter Erklärung (Frankfurt´s declaration). For Jörg Weber from the hosting FPC in Frankfurt the congress was a big success: First, “because the networking between the existing initiatives could be strengthened”, and second, “because we raised some public awareness for our concerns through our first common declaration entitled Ernährungsdemokratie jetzt (Food Democracy Now)”. This title also speaks to the existing academic discourse on food democracy: Hassanein, one important representative, sees FPCs as “a concrete example of a deliberate attempt to develop the practice of food democracy” (2003, p. 79). In my PhD research on FPCs, I am currently investigating how food democracy played out in the emergence of the FPC in Oldenburg.

 

Reference:

Hassanein, N. (2003). Practicing food democracy: A pragmatic politics of transformation. Journal of Rural Studies, 19(1), 77–86.

Skilful conversations for integration

Community member post by Rebecca Freeth and Liz Clarke

Interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle complex problems is challenging! In particular, interdisciplinary communication can be very difficult – how do we bridge the gulf of mutual incomprehension when we are working with people who think and talk so very differently from us? What skills are required when mutual incomprehension escalates into conflict, or thwarts decision making on important issues?

It is often at this point that collaborations lose momentum. In the absence of constructive or productive exchange, working relationships stagnate and people retreat to the places where they feel safest: their own disciplines, their offices, or the colleagues who are on their ‘side’. As a consequence, prospects for meaningful collaboration and integration dwindle.

Continue reading at https://i2insights.org/2018/11/06/skilful-integration-conversations/.

 

 

 

Conference preparations running under full steam

By Lotte Lutz

It seems that many people are interested in the concept of leverage points, or find that a conference on Leverage Points sounds really good: we were positively surprised by the sheer number of applicants and very happy about the high quality of abstracts and ideas for sessions. We have invited approximately 400 people to present their work!

Now we are very busy to make this a really cool conference.

The whole project team is involved in the different steps that will lead to a (hopefully) inspiring conference. Currently, we are in the process of combining presentations that run in the same session, so that interesting and meaningful discussions can evolve.

Parallel to the design of content, we take all these little decisions on rooms, food, music and extras, so that all participants at the conference will spend a good time with us at Leuphana. For example, brass riot, a group of three young musicians, will play live music at the ice breaking event.

As you have probably seen on our website, we have reserved hotel rooms for conference participants. The reservations expire in the coming weeks, so please don’t forget to book your room soon. Also, the early bird registration is only available until the end of October.

We are very much looking forward to seeing you at Leuphana!

New paper: Leverage points for improving gender equality and human well-being in a smallholder farming context

Ideas for Sustainability

By Aisa Manlosa

How can factors that create and entrench gender inequality change? Approaches range from targeting visible gender gaps, changing formal institutions, and focusing on deeply entrenched social norms. In a recently published paper, we unpack gender-related changes in southwest Ethiopia and emphasize the importance of interactions between domains of changes (Fig. 1). We highlight the utility of a leverage points perspective for systems-oriented gender research.

leverage points and gender Conceptual framework of leverage points for improving gender equality and household well-being

In the agricultural development sector where gender has been found to influence access and control of resources, participation in livelihood activities, and benefits from livelihoods, researchers who apply the gender transformative approach have called for greater focus on the factors that underlie gender inequality including formal and informal structures such as gender norms, and power relations. Gender equality is a highly pertinent issue in southwest Ethiopia. In many areas, social…

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Can a transdisciplinary PhD contribute to transformative change?

Originally posted on https://sesscholars.wordpress.com/

This is the fifth post in the series on ‘Transdisciplinary PhD Journeys’.

My name is David Lam. I am a PhD student at Leuphana University Lüneburg Germany in the research project ‘Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformations’ and currently a guest PhD researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden.

I am doing research in a transdisciplinary case study in Southern Transylvania, Romania. I aim to make my research in Transylvania useful in two ways: First, to better understand a sustainability problem in a specific context. Second, to contribute to possible solutions. We are working with a network of approximately 30 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which try to foster sustainable development in the region by, for instance, supporting small-scale farmers, conserving the cultural heritage, or protecting the unique landscape with its  high biodiversity value. With my PhD research, I want to understand how these inspiring NGOs increase their impact in order to accelerate the sustainability transformation in the region.

A question that always comes into my mind is: How transformative can transdisciplinary sustainability research actually be? Additionally, can my PhD research support transformative change? Scholars have advanced our understanding of sustainability transformations of social-ecological (Olsson et al. 2014) or social-technical systems (Grin et al. 2010) as well as of transdisciplinary sustainability research methods a lot (Lang et al. 2012; Wiek et al. 2012; Wiek and Lang 2016). For PhDs, this literature is strongly motivating and inspiring because it shows that fundamental systems change is possible, and that research can play an essential role to foster such change. I think this is one of the main reasons why many PhDs decide to do transdisciplinary research.

In Southern Transylvania, we seek to answer: How can we reach the sustainability vision, named Balance Brings Beauty? (Hanspach et al. 2014). We developed this question by talking to the people and based on our experience from former research projects in the region. I really like this question. When I started my PhD, I believed that if my research can contribute to answering this question, I will contribute to positive changes in the region.

Today, my thoughts are still the same, but much more nuanced. After two years of being a PhD in a transdisciplinary case study, I realized that my research can contribute to change in so many different ways, such as providing scientific results and evidence, using scientific methods to understand complex system dynamics, or even by simply building up relations with stakeholders and being present in the case study area. In my opinion, the latter are the most relevant ones for transformative transdisciplinary research. However, it is difficult to fulfil them because they need more time and as PhDs we are under pressure to collect and analyse data as well as write and publish papers. This takes a lot of time and happens not in the field, but at our desks in our offices. Being in the field to really connect with stakeholders on the one hand, and writing scientifically rigorous papers on the other hand is a tough challenge. Especially, when you have the ambition that your PhD research should be meaningful and contribute to something better.

So, is it too much to expect transformative impact from your own PhD research? How could we organize a PhD programme for transformative transdisciplinary research (including funding, time, supervision, and evaluation)? I think a lot of PhDs working on sustainability transformations or using transdisciplinary research methods have thought about this. I would love to hear your opinions about this, here, as a comment. Alternatively, I invite you to join our early-career researcher pre-conference event at the Leverage Points Conference 2019 at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany on 5thFebruary 2019.

 

Grin J, Rotmans J, Schot J (2010) Transitions to Sustainable Development: New Directions in the Study of Long Term Transformative Change. Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Hanspach J, Hartel T, Milcu AI, et al (2014) A holistic approach to studying social-ecological systems and its application to Southern Transylvania. Ecol Soc. doi: 10.5751/ES-06915-190432

Lang DJ, Wiek A, Bergmann M, et al (2012) Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: Practice, principles, and challenges. Sustain Sci 7:25–43. doi: 10.1007/s11625-011-0149-x

Olsson P, Galaz V, Boonstra WJ (2014) Sustainability transformations: a resilience perspective. Ecol Soc 19:. doi: 10.5751/ES-06799-190401

Wiek A, Lang DJ (2016) Transformational Sustainability Research Methodology. In: Sustainability Science. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp 31–41

Wiek A, Ness B, Schweizer-Ries P, et al (2012) From complex systems analysis to transformational change: A comparative appraisal of sustainability science projects. Sustain Sci. doi: 10.1007/s11625-011-0148-y

Registration for Leverage Points 2019 conference is now open

We are happy to announce that the registration for the Leverage Points conference in February 2019 is now open. Emails are currently being sent out to all people who have submitted an abstract.

We had the privilege to read many very interesting and well-founded abstracts. Now we are doing our best to offer you different platforms for enriching discussions, inspiring exchange and playful experiences with the leverage points concept.

We very much look forward to seeing you in Lüneburg in February.

More information on registration and payments can be found on the conference webpage, and you can register and pay directly in the ticket shop.

In search of the magic bullet: Working to find leverage points for sustainability transformation

By Maraja Riechers

I am going to tell you a personal story – the story does not end in a clear moral of the story, and it won’t give you insights into the “how to be a good PostDoc”. It is more a reflection of the joy of challenges.

When I was 15/16 years old, my school ended and we all had to decide which path in life we wanted to take. It was a big celebration with fancy clothes and dinner, and it felt very significant. At the time, I forced myself to decide what I would like to do with my life. There were a few things I did know for sure: I love nature, and learning. Hence, I became one of those: Save the World! Change the system! kind-of kids. And ultimately, I decided that this will be the goal of my life. Saving the world. And as I anyway loved learning, I decided to go to high school to learn more on how I could fulfill my new found destiny.

That was about 15 years ago. And I admit I have not changed too much. The complexity of the system forced me to reconfigure my teenage pride and be more humble. I am now trying to find my small contribution to maybe set in motion a potential change in this world. But generally, the goal is still similar. And I still love learning. For a while now, I have been a PostDoc in a project called “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation”. As suggested by the title, the project aims to change “the system” by trying to find the best ways to combat the social and environmental crises we are currently in. The narrative of my research and that of my team, gives me the feeling that I am finally in the right place. And that I finally have the right tools at hand. A leverage points perspective gives me a vision of which I can be proud. It forces me to look at deeper causes for change and look above and beyond disciplinary boundaries. Further, we work in transdisciplinary projects – where achievements are not merely measured in papers, but in real-world impact. Maybe through co-production of knowledge, maybe by offering connections at the science-policy interface, maybe by giving the people a vision for a better world: Let’s find ways to change the system, shall we?

Boromors system change

And while I definitively get a high five from my 15-year-old me, I do have one issue. This work is personal. How do you maintain a proper work-life balance, when your work is your source of income, your hobby and ultimately one of the things by which you define yourself? I owe it to my 15-year-old self to use the chances I get, as well as I can. And I still love learning, so new research projects and new ideas intrigue me. The pressure to find a silver bullet solution is on… but yet, one does not simply change the system. One does not even simply understand a system. Neither can I do this on my own, nor together with my amazing colleagues (and we are 25 hardworking souls in the leverage points project). But I still want to change the system. And I do want to find leverage points that foster sustainability. In every project I am leading, in every paper, in all transdisciplinary interactions, I am looking for more meaning, for underlying causes, for actual significant change. And to be honest, this is exhausting. Because it is personal. Because I take it personal.

Being a PostDoc anyway comes with a different set of responsibilities: For example, I have Bachelor and Masters students for which I am primarily responsible. And apart from the usual task to teach them how to be a good scientist, I also want to infect them with my enthusiasm. Research is fun because it is useful! Further, PostDocs are responsible for maintaining good team spirit, integration, being a link between the professorial PIs and the PhD students, responsible for outcome, output and good process. Then a bit of teaching, proposal writing and, well… you know the drill.

This is a balancing act with tough prioritizations. The leverage points project 1) aims to change the system, 2) needs meaningful participatory processes with real-world improvements, 3) while it depends on active and responsible PostDocs, 4) while also being subject to the usual academic drill. And this makes me really, really happy. And really, really exhausted. I try to take failures not too personally (which is hard), and try to leave work at the office (which is even harder, because then I occasionally simply don’t leave the office).

There are two small conclusions to my personal story: One, if you want to change the system, try a leverage points lens. It may give you new hope and tools that we actually can change something in this world. You can use it as analytical tool, metaphorical lens and anything in between (and in alternation). And two, when your goal in life and at work become one and the same, it is immensely exhausting at times, but also immensely fulfilling. But we do not have to do this task all by ourselves.

Let’s change the system, shall we?

Transformations’ Deep Change Challenges

By: Steve Waddell, Lead Staff – SDG Transformations Forum

Leading up to the first face-to-face SDG Transformations Forum meeting last September in association with the Transformations2017 conference, I talked with over 80 people involved with what I perceive as a transformations initiative. The key question I asked was “What is holding you back from being even more successful with your transformations work?” Their responses were key to designing our meeting, organizing of the Forum and developing a Theory of Transformational Change (ToTC).

The Forum distinguishes between incremental, reform and transformational change by associating each with different loops of learning as pioneered theoretically by Argyris and Schon (single, double) and extended to triple loop by various theoreticians. Since learning is a core change activity, this definition provides a particularly powerful perspective. Transformational change is distinguished by its depth of challenge to prevailing systems including ways of thinking, assumptions and power structures; it involves re-defining of purpose and system boundaries and structures. Of course there is often misalignment between an espoused transformational vision, and the type of change tools and strategy used.

A thematic analysis of the responses to my question resulted in the following:

  1. Transforming Assessment and Evaluation: Current input-output assessment approaches undermine transformations, which require deep learning; jurisdictionally and project limited boundaries are limiting scale and time of transformation.
  2. Meta-narrative: The current economic-focused stories about success associated with growth and GNP must be displaced with sustainable ones focused on human and environmental well-being.
  3. Innovation: Rather than designing innovation based on some physical technology propelled by financiers, we need to categorically design with integration of the new narrative.
  4. Financing Transformations: The current finance system is highly fragmented between “pots” of money (e.g.: commercial finance, government finance, philanthropy, science funding, sovereign wealth funds) with very inadequate ways of smooth connections for funding the quality and quantity associated with transformation.
  5. Capacity: “Change” capacity efforts are highly fragmented and generally mired in non-transformational change methods and approaches.
  6. Transformational Systems Analysis: We need ways to see the complexity associated with transformation, for purposive transformation efforts. Although mapping and data visualization methods are advanced and advancing rapidly, they are generally under-utilized and still under-developed.

The Forum’s September meeting was organized around these responses, and subsequently the Forum has organized its Working Groups around them. The responses are not seen as comprehensive – for example, “governance” as a transformational challenge is missing; nor are they seen as silos, but rather as mutually inter-acting and informing issues.

This has led to understanding these challenges as “deep causes”, in contrast to direct and proximate causes of transformational difficulties. The Table helps illustrate these.

This distinction is part of the Forum’s evolving ToTC.  Today people refer simply to “theories of change” without distinguishing the type of change they mean. However, given the types of change are very different in terms of dynamics, required tools and activities, this simplistic approach results in muddling of actions. To address this, the Forum is evolving a theory of transformational change, including its relationship to the other types of change. In this, the need to address the deep causes by emerging new patterns of relationships and actions as the basis for transforming systems, is a critical ingredient.  We look forward to further advancing this work at the Leverage Points 2019 conference.

 

The call for abstracts for the Leverage Points conference is now open until 15 July 2018.

For more information please visit: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de

If you have any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact: LP2019@leuphana.de